JCAD Owner Featured in Forbes
30 November, 2022
June 6, 2022 at 1:35 pm
Last updated: 19th July 2022
So you’ve got a big idea to create a new amazing product. At the same time, you’ve seen some videos of 3D printers doing their thing, maybe even read a few articles about 3D printing.
Now you are thinking, why not give 3D printing technology a try! Why not make the most of a 3d printing service to get your idea out of your head and turn it into something tangible?
The next logical question that might occur to you is how much does a 3d printing service cost?
3D printing is the most affordable manufacturing process for making a prototype or a small batch of products.
But how affordable is it to 3d print something? What’s the exact amount of money you may need to spend to have your product materialize in the real world?
If those questions interest you, you are in the right place. In this article we will explain in detail how much it costs to 3d print something, how much 3d printing services charge, how much it would cost you to print that part at home yourself, and pretty much everything related to that in-between.
There are many aspects that determine how much it costs to 3D print something. The following table of 3D printed prototypes will give you a general idea of how much it costs to use a 3D printing service for a range of different products:
|Item||Cost to 3D Print||Turnaround Time||Image of 3D Printed Item|
|Bottle lid||$100||5 – 7 days|
|Guitar tuning pegs||$250||5 – 7 days|
|Prototype brackets||$300||5 – 7 days|
|Belt buckle||$400||5 – 7 days|
|Garlic press||$500||6 – 8 days|
|3D printed shoe||$750||6 – 8 days|
|Microphone holder / case||$800||6 – 8 days|
|PCB enclosure||$1000||6 – 8 days|
|Boomerang sign||$1200||6 – 8 days|
|Lifelike dog statue||$1500||1 – 2 weeks|
|Architectural miniature house||$1500||1 – 2 weeks|
|Case with multiple compartments||$1500||1 – 2 weeks|
|Mechanical turbine model||$1500||1 – 2 weeks|
|Toy animal set||$2500||1 – 2 weeks|
|Keyboard prototype||$3000||1 – 2 weeks|
There is no simple answer to how much 3d printing costs per hour. The thing is, several factors influence the 3d printing cost per hour. There is also the fact that each company reserves the right to set its own hourly printing costs and profit margins.
But, profit margins and company policies aside, in the following prices are the main factors that influence the hourly cost for 3d printing:
Material costs play a significant role in the cost of the hourly rate.
For example, if you choose SLA printing, you might be asked to choose between various types of liquid resin. The thing with standard resin is that it can cost as low as $35 per kilogram or as much as a couple of hundred dollars depending on the quality you choose.
Then there are SLS printers that use PLA filament. Typically, a decent quality PLA sells for $15 to $20 per kg. At the same time, a color-changing PLA costs about $40 per kg, which is double the price. Other plastics like ABS, PETG, HIPS, and PVA feature similar price ranges as PLA.
The point is, some high end materials can significantly increase the 3d printing cost per hour. Using them, however, can sometimes mean better print quality, more durable parts, improved flexibility, etc. Other times, a well-printed model can be printed using standard materials that are significantly cheaper.
Different technologies require different types of materials which cost differently. Then there are other factors such as infill and layer height that also affect how much material is needed, hence the cost of the print.
A 3d printer, the same as any other machine, has a finite lifespan, which means it will wear down. To break even on your investment in your 3d printer over time, either you or the service provider you use will need to calculate that in the hourly amount.
For example, if your 3d printer costs $2,000 and, hypothetically, comes with an expected lifespan of 2,000 printing hours, you will need to charge $1 per hour to break even on your purchase.
It doesn’t matter whether you use a resin or a fused deposition modeling technology, that is how you calculate the operational cost.
Electricity is not free. Just like in other technologies, you need electricity to print stuff.
However, a single 3d printer does not consume too much power.
But for larger business with a farm of 3d printers running long hours, the electricity bill can become a factor in how much you charge for your prints.
On average, entry and mid-range 3d printers consume 50 to 70 watts of energy per hour.
Hypothetically, if your 3d printer prints 8 hours per day, it could consume less than 10 cents worth of electricity (depending on your location).
3d printing is not fully automated. A person needs to supervise and operate the process. That includes post processing such as removing supports, cleaning the parts, sanding, etc.
Furthermore, the 3d prints also need to be packed and shipped, which also requires time and effort from someone.
Whether it is the owner or an employer that does all the work, their time needs to be compensated.
Plenty of parts wear out. Parts such as belts, cooling fans, thermistors, nozzles, etc. can all degrade over time. Replacing them with new ones is an absolute must.
The best 3d printers feature premium parts that tend to last longer. Then there are less reputable 3d printers featuring low-quality parts that tend to burn out more quickly.
Material cost, print time, and post processing are the big three. They make a big chunk of the overall cost of the cost of 3d printing.
In addition to those big costs, there are a few more that tend to fly below the radar.
Here is a shortlist of what other materials you need to have in your 3d printing workshop:
On top of material costs, overhead costs, and all other expenses, there are the profit margins. Profit margins can vary from one 3d printing business to another.
3D printing businesses may not be able to control factors such as material cost and electricity price, but they can have a say when it comes to their rates.
3D printing calculators are small pieces of software that typically account for all the major factors mentioned earlier. They basically do most of the math to determine an approximate final cost, while you just get to feed them with your raw product data.
However, keep in mind that they are there to give you a round estimate, and they often do not account for all factors.
These online calculators are some of the best out there:
3DprintingPro is one of the most detailed printing 3d calculators on the internet. What makes it special is that it features factors that most other 3d printing calculators do not provide. One such factor is the tax rate.
Omni is a pretty basic 3d printing cost calculator. It lacks material options and some more advanced features. The best part about it is that it instantly gives you a cost estimate.
This 3d printing cost calculator also comes with a downloadable version that can be used locally on your PC or laptop. It offers a wide range of functionalities.
3D Addict is a popular 3d printing cost calculator, often used by 3d printing services from around the world. It comes with a massive selection of cost factors such as printer maintenance, electricity, materials, shipping, etc.
Finding a 3d printing service near you is as straightforward as it gets – a query using your favorite search engine will do the trick just fine. For example, a simple online query such as “3d printing service near me” is perfect.
When it comes to 3d printing, you can’t rely much on price comparison services. Instead, you need to do your own research.
If you reside in a big urban metro area, know that you will have quite a few 3d printing services near you. Typically, you might be limited to fewer options if you reside in a rural community. That means you would need to rely on online 3d printing.
But, regardless of where you live, there are always ways to 3d print your design. And it’s often cheaper to look further abroad than to use a local service. Here are your options, listed from most affordable to most expensive.
These are public services run by the county government, town, or city. Sometimes they are part of a public library, whereas other times they operate as part of a recreation center.
Most times, they charge only a small fee for usage and material. This is by far the cheapest option. But don’t expect to find there some high-end 3d printing technology such as direct metal laser sintering. In most cases, they operate some affordable FDM 3d printers. You will also have to spend time (sometimes a lot), learning how to use them yourself. Some of these community services even offer laser cutting services.
Make spaces are similar to the community 3d printing places. The thing that makes them different than a community 3d printing service is that they operate for-profit.
The idea with these places is that they offer you the tools and technology to design and craft all sorts of gadgets and objects. They could be used for instance to make a simple prototype.
Another thing that differentiates them from community centers is that, on average, they are better equipped. They offer access to different 3d printing technologies such as selective laser sintering, high accuracy FMD 3d printing, post processing technology, etc.
Commercial 3d printing businesses are transforming additive manufacturing and are making it accessible to anyone with an idea.
Almost every 3d printing service offers anything from design to final, 3d printed product. You can also bring in, send, and upload your 3d file. Because of them, manufacturing custom parts has never been easier.
For them, and the professionals they employ, model complexity is something they deal with on a daily basis. In addition to selective laser melting, fused deposition modeling, and other 3d printing methods, they often offer access to technologies such as injection molding and higher quality machines.
Commercial printing companies are best at making functional prototypes. And, unlike community and make space printing services, they also offer access to expensive materials, and you won’t have to learn how to correctly configure and callibrate the printers before using them, saving you time and money.
3d printing or additive manufacturing as it is also known, can cost anywhere from $1 and up to thousands of dollars. A wide range of factors such as materials, labor, print time, post processing, and electricity determines the price of 3d printing.
In some instances, the cost of 3d printing can even exceed the price of an entry-level 3d printer. But then again, an entry-level 3d printer can’t handle what an industrial 3d printer can.
For example, a photon mono can produce excellent prints. But an industrial level resin 3d printer such as the NILS 480 industrial SLS 3D printer can create bigger prints, at a faster pace, all while on average using less material.
Professional, online 3d printing services are the best technology to turn complex designs into working prototypes. When it comes to creating complex parts, not many other technologies can compete with additive manufacturing.
The fact that you can submit your design online, get it printed in some distant 3d printing farm, and then delivered to your doorstep can make life really easy!
Another thing that also strongly resonates with makers is that they can get an instant quote from an online 3d printing service. They also know instantly how much it will cost for their printed part/s to be shipped to them.
Much of the 3d printing cost for hobbyists depends on the complexity of the model, the materials used, the type of technology used to print the object, the cost of post processing, and so on, not to mention the time cost of learning how to use the software and hardware required.
For example, 3d printing miniatures on average cost more than other similar prints of the same size. This is because miniatures are very detailed. They can’t be rushed which means longer print time. That also means someone needs to make sure the 3d printer is calibrated so that the prints turn out perfectly.
All these factors add up, making the overall cost of the print quite high. 3d printing a miniature compared to 3d printing a phone case that requires an equal amount of material can cost much more. That is because, as explained above, miniatures require a lot more effort.
Plus, not all miniatures can be printed with an affordable FDM printer. By using a more expensive 3d printing technology, the cost of the print tends to increase as well.
If you’re just starting out, 3d printing at home is an option to bring your designs to reality. To create your prints at home, for personal use, you do not need to register a business, no need to pay taxes on your 3d prints, or anything like that.
Registering a business is needed if you start selling whatever you print or design. Paying tax on what you earn is a part of being a business owner.
3d printing at home does come with costs however. As anyone that has ever been involved in 3d printing will tell you, there are quite a few costs when 3d printing at home.
Here are the main factors that will determine how much it costs to 3d print things at home.
If you plan to print your stuff at home, you will probably go with FMD or a resin 3d printer.
Here’s how to calculate the cost of materials if you 3d print things at home:
Cura Slicer can provide a fair estimate of how much filament you need for each model.
If you pay a price of $25 for 1 kg of PLA filament, know that you will have about 330 meters of filament. That means your cost will be 7.6¢ per meter.
If your model requires 10m of filament, you will use material worth 76¢. If it is a larger print, one that will take 24 hours or so to be printed, then you are probably looking at about 120 meters of filament.
That translates to a cost of $9.12USD. If we round it up, your cost to 3d print PLA for a full day (24 hours) is $10.00USD.
The ChiTuBox Slice can tell you how much resin you need to print a 3d sketch. Plus, if you add the price of the resin in the settings, the ChiTuBox Slice will calculate how much it will cost you to print your design.
Same as with FDM printers, altering things like layer height and infill percentage can affect the extent of the material you need to 3d print your design.
Most 3d printers used by DIYers tend to consume around 50 to 70 watts per hour. That’s the average electricity consumption that accounts for 3d printers that work with hardened plastic and those that use resin.
For a 10-hour print, the 3d printer would consume from 0.5kwh to 0.7kwh. The total price of consumed electricity by your 3d printer for a 10-hour print will be in the range of 10 cents or so.
In addition to the common costs, you also need to account for things such as isopropyl alcohol for cleaning the build plate, rubber gloves to keep your hands protected, sandpaper for post processing, brushes, and paint.
The good news is that these expenses don’t affect the price of your 3d prints too much. But if you want to keep a close tab on all expenses, you need to be aware of them as well.
One of the fastest and easiest ways to get an instant quote from multiple 3d printing services is to use a comparison service. Typically, these services work with a global network of 3d print businesses that can bring your design to life.
It is an automated process, and the only thing required from the user is to upload their design.
The final step is choosing from the given instant quotes. Typically, in addition to the printing price, you will also receive an assessment of the expected 3d printing time, delivery time, overall quality of the print, etc.
If however you need personalized help you’re better to work with a company like us here at JCAD!
The cheapest way to 3d print something is if you own a 3d printer. But then again, if you don’t print too often, you will have a hard time recouping your investment in the purchase of the 3d printer.
Plus, there is a considerable learning curve, especially if it is your first 3d printer. To produce a quality 3d print is not as simple as adjusting layer height, there’s a lot more to it than that.
We have many years experience as a cost effective 3D printing service and would love to assist you with your project. If you want to learn more about the work we do here, get in touch via our quote form, chat widget or by calling us on 1888 202 2052 and let us know your requirements and lead time.
In any case, whatever you decide, we wish you happy printing!
Jason Vander Griendt is a Mechanical Engineering Technician with years of experience working at major companies such as SNC Lavalin Inc, Hatch Ltd. Siemens and Gerdau Ameristeel. He is the CEO of JCAD – Inc., a company he started in 2006 after seeing a gap in the market for businesses who could assist clients through the entire product design and manufacturing process.
Jason has been featured in Forbes, has had his businesses analyzed and discussed in multiple start-up books, was a previous winner of the Notable8 Digital Innovator of the year award, and is a regular guest on business panels and podcasts. Email Jason at email@example.com or follow him on LinkedIn.